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Tom Swift's Story

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Longtime educator Tom Swift, a teacher in the Ozark School District for the last 28 of his 31 total years in education, had previously published an open letter serving as his initial public account of his mistreatment by a school district he loved, where he devoted decades to helping generations of students.

As he is currently in the midst of negotiating a separation agreement from the district, he is not presently able to contribute new testimony about this district’s hostile work environment. He has plenty that he could share, and perhaps eventually he will be able to update with his most recent experiences. Until then, we would like to share his previous publication below:

Hello All. This is Tom Swift. I’m a current teacher at Ozark Middle School, who is taking a little time off at the moment to deal with some very minor, but real, PTSD-type symptoms. It is my hope that I will be able to remain in teaching, but the constant hostility which I have faced from administration most likely will not result in me doing so any time soon.

How bad is it? On September 8, 2022, I sent Superintendent Bauman an email, requesting that I be placed on administrative leave until an investigation into my concerns of hostility took place. He responded by immediately rejecting my request, and then had me observed for my entire teaching day. Nothing quite like a 4 ½ hour observation; complete with dual NEE teacher evaluations that resulted in the only subpar scores that I have ever received in my 30+ years.

In their pursuit to make my life miserable (which they have definitely succeeded in doing in regard to my career), administrators also left themselves vulnerable for exposure of obvious retaliation. Not a good look when I had just filed a Retaliation Charge against them in June.

So, why was the charge filed? On the last day of school in May [2022], administrators gave me a Notice of Deficiencies (final step before job termination). That Notice listed 14 accusations against me that supposedly took place within the prior 8 months. The only problem with the accusations, was that almost all of them were either completely (and provably) false or else (provably) taken completely out of context and extremely embellished.

"In their pursuit to make my life miserable (which they have definitely succeeded in doing in regard to my career), administrators also left themselves vulnerable for exposure of obvious retaliation."

When a teacher can absolutely prove that administrators entirely fabricated information in a formal document that mentions termination of a 30+ year career, it is not a good look for the District, especially when just four days prior to the Notice being given, a high ranking administrator stated in email: “The district is very well aware of its obligation not to retaliate in response to the filing of a charge [discrimination charge filed in September 2021]. It has not done so, and will not do so now or in the future.”

My Notice makes the previous statement laughable in its application, and exposes it as even more, additional, obvious, “bad faith” retaliation.

So, why were administrators so emphatically denying that they had treated me with bad faith? On September 10, 2021, administrators initiated a Professional Improvement Plan against me, in which they violated School Board Policy GBCBB (and several others), Missouri State Law 105.055, and Federal FERPA Law. The PIP was a defamatory hit-piece, with provable fabrication and extreme embellishment. It was much of the basis for a Discrimination Charge being filed against the District in September 2021. Not a good look when, just the week before, I had emailed every staff member in the District and warned them of wide-spread administrative abuse of authority.

"The district is very well aware of its obligation not to retaliate in response to the filing of a charge [discrimination charge filed in September 2021]. It has not done so, and will not do so now or in the future."

I wish I could say that this comedy of administrative errors was actually funny, but it isn’t. It is cruel, and many of us are in pain because of it. Many of my colleagues have remained silent on the matter for very good reasons, as they know full well that the hostility can get even worse.

I currently possess over 500 pages of documentation that easily verifies that district leaders have participated in criminal activities (which placed others at safety risk), manipulated air quality reports (which placed others at safety risk), manipulated Board Policy (which placed others at safety risk), neglected to respond to work orders in a timely manner (which placed others at safety risk), intimidated others from reporting building conditions (which placed others at safety risk), placed undue pressure on me to teach in an incredibly unsafe environment (which placed others at safety risk), directed me to leave my shop students unattended (which placed others at safety risk), ignored obvious air quality warning signs (which placed others at safety risk), exhibited road rage in the OMS parent pickup lane (which placed others at safety risk), and have treated numerous staff members with such brutality that the brutality itself is causing very real and long-lasting harm.
THIS CRUELTY HAS TO STOP!

I have the evidence, but I have yet to find any District leader who (to the best of my knowledge) has acted in any meaningful way to use it to hold others accountable. Hopeless to solve this crisis internally, I feel entirely justified to rectify this dangerous condition outside the normal “acceptable” channels.

For the record, I have never met with the Board of Education, as they rejected my only effort to do so in March 2022. In May 2022, Board President Sarah Adams Orr stated in email that “Due to the amount of time that has been directed to your disagreement with the PIP and the overriding importance of your compliance with the PIP, the Board will not communicate with you further regarding your personnel matters.”

It is incredibly important for everyone to understand just a few things regarding President Orr’s assertion. First, I have documented evidence that shows that President Orr’s personal mistakes directly led to the increased “amount of time.” Second, safety concerns have now been conveniently (for the Board) lumped in with “personnel matters.” Third, although my building principal has stated on multiple occasions that my PIP does not include any misinformation, it is, in fact, a malicious piece of creative writing that has at least 20 pieces of misinformation and is laced throughout with grand embellishment.

"Due to the amount of time that has been directed to your disagreement with the PIP and the overriding importance of your compliance with the PIP, the Board will not communicate with you further regarding your personnel matters."

This account only briefly describes administrative errors in the past year. If you look back to 2018, you can see that a negligent direct order from [then-Director of Operations but current Superintendent] Dr. Bauman directly led to a personal injury with lifelong consequences. If you go back to 2019, you will find absolutely scandalous stories regarding mold and wood dust.

Both of those issues are still being swept under the rug, as another high ranking administrator entirely manipulated information in that regard during the June 2022 Board meeting. The information that he presented had already been fully discredited by OSHA and an independent air quality inspector. To make his manipulated information far more grievous, other leaders in the room had already been made aware of this false information, but chose to allow him to continue misleading the public.

"To make his manipulated information far more grievous, other leaders in the room had already been made aware of this false information, but chose to allow him to continue misleading the public."

Hopefully, many of you have been keeping up with the Major's saga at https://www.ozarkteacherabuse.org/. There is good reason that I am inclined to believe that Major’s treatment is exactly how he stated. A former West Point instructor and ROTC National Winner, deserves much, much better.

Major ... , thank you for openly telling your story. Your courage has inspired me to do the same, which I hope in turn, will inspire others to do likewise.

I am still employed by the District, and am very aware that this letter will most likely be the catalyst for my 30+ year in teaching to be terminated. I can’t think of a more rewarding way to go out than standing up for others. Despite my current situation, my time in Ozark has been an absolute honor and blessing.

Thank you for your consideration, and as always, it’s great to be a Tiger.

Sincerely,

Mr. Swift

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